SOUTHEND’S town centre market has proved so successful, it is to double in size – just four months after it opened.

A butcher, a cheese specialist and more clothing stalls are set to join the High Street market every Thursday as it expands to offer 32 pitches late next month.

Market organiser Trevor Day, from Hockley, who also sells toiletries and household goods on a stall there, said: “We hope it has brought more people into the town.

“Southend can be a little drab, but it has brought some life to the town each Thursday.”

Southend Council reintroduced the open-air market last October and is aiming to add seven stalls to the current 16 at the start of March, with a full 32 trading by the end of the month.

Several traders have already applied to take stalls and the council, which licences the pitches and inspects and regulates them, says it is checking their references and considering the type of goods it wants to see on sale.

Traders will have to meet strict criteria, with food stalls expected to meet exceptional food hygiene standards.

Marzia Abel, the council’s town centre manager, said: “We certainly want to ensure as wide a variety of stalls as possible.

“While we have a good selection of stalls at the moment, we will be looking to broaden the offer to include a butcher, a cheese specialist, and to extend the fashion offer for all ages.

“There is a set criteria, which encourages quality, rather than cheap goods, but does not allow hot or cooked food stalls, or coffee vendors, as there are plenty of town centre businesses covering these things.”

The new market replaced the one which closed in York Road in 2009, with stalls lining the High Street to the north of the railway bridge towards the Victoria Shopping Centre. It trades from 8am until 2pm.

Independent councillor Mike Assenheim lobbied hard for the return of the market, but wanted to see it in the Victoria Plaza end of London Road.

Stalls may soon come close to that part of the town centre when the market is enlarged.

Deputy council leader John Lamb said: “A market has always been an important element of Southend life. We’re keen to see it expand. The High Street traders are happy with that and it offers residents and visitors alike a different outlook on the town.

“Southend’smarket is a success because it’s what good markets are all about – good quality goods and people getting a good deal.

“It’s a win-win for everyone really – for the market traders because people are visiting more, for the surrounding retailers, because it has a positive knock-on effect on their businesses, and local shoppers, because they get a wider range of produce to buy.”

Southend Standard:

Infrastructure – retailers’ leader Dawn Jeakins

Retailers welcome growth – but want high standards

RETAILERS have backed market expansion plans, but have warned they want standards to be strictly maintained by the council.

The market appears to have attracted more customers into the High Street on Thursdays without stealing customers from the nearby shops.

Dawn Jeakings, chairman of Southend Business Improvement District, which represents town centre businesses, said: “The businesses are happy with the market in its present form.

“Anything which increases trade into the town has to be a good thing.

“I agree the quality of produce has to be there. A butcher and a cheese specialist would be perfect.”

However, Ms Jeakins, who is manager of the Royals Shopping Centre, at the opposite end of the the High Street, said the council would need to keep a careful eye on the standard of the stalls and make sure facilities for market traders were up to scratch.

She explained: “Long term, the infrastructure needs looking at properly.

“If it grows the traders will need proper drainage and other facilities.

“Also uniform awnings for the stalls might be needed.”